........Comment by Bill Moore

...The forest around us

Finland at
mid-summer 1976
(Part 1)

....Please don’t go to Finland – if you don’t like beautiful pine and birch forests on slightly rolling hills, dotted with beautiful lakes and lived in by a nation that prides itself on cleanliness and a heritage. Forget about their excellent highways, their efficient Finnair service and their politeness to visitors. Pay no attention to a thousand small boat water-ways or the stark beauty of summertime in Lapland – or even the good pike fishing in the Gulf of Finland.
....And if you just happen to be inter-ested in all aspects of forestry – as this logger is – you wouldn’t be impressed by their efficient mills, or the neatness of cord-wood piles of pulpwood stacked every-where off the highways. Or for that matter – the attitude that management and labor look upon each other with a degree of respect not generally found in this Canada of ours.
....My trip back to Finland this sum-mer to see her forests and be with her people only re-impressed on me just how fine a country this northern forested land is. Their forests around them account for half of their economy, but it is an economy that is near ready to burst at the seams be-
cause of very high inflation, high taxation and, of course, the weakened forest markets of the world.

....In visiting and talking with countless people involved in the forest industry, whose wood and fibre production is comparable to British Columbia’s, I was sorrowed by their circumstances that are bringing her industrious people to virtual bankruptcy. From small business to large integrated companies, the burden of inflation and taxation is causing a far more serious hardship than we are feeling in this country. Because of our mutual dependency on a strong forest economy, we could well to look at Finland. And if lessons are to be learned – we should learn them well.

....Over many years, out here in the west, I had heard of the advanced forest policies of Finland. Their selec-tive logging practices, their refores-tation policies and their utilization of the tree, were always pointed to as examples of efficiency. These things I found to be true when I first saw their forests. None of these policies has caused their problems today.

....After the devastating war that sucked the blood dry from Finland, this remarkable little country bounced back to become a world competitor against far larger nations. There were 100 miles of paved road in the country when hostilities ceased – and yet today there are excellent blacktop roads criss crossing the country and reaching into the farthest reaches of Lapland at a point just about even with Point Barrow – Alaska’s northern tip.
....There is no waste in the country – the people have too much pride to allow such things to happen. Drive for hundreds of miles and you will not find scrap heaps or unsightly piles of junked cars as is so common alongside North American roads. There are no signs saying “Keep It clean.” Their heritage is one of cleanliness, they don’t need the signs.
....At the town of Varkaus in south eastern Finland I was the guest of A. Ahlstrom Co. and observed their very efficient full utilization enterprise pulp mill, paper mill, sawmill, plywood mill complex. About 4,000 people are employed there and apart from the apparent efficiency of the complex, the respect of employer-employee rela-
British Columbia Lumberman, August, 1976

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tions impressed me greatly. I shall go into this aspect in next month’s article.
....I must stop for a moment and assure the reader (I hope there is one) that I am not attempting to compare the forests of Finland to the coastal forests of B.C. Size of tree, rugged-ness of terrain, elements of hazard do not really allow one to make com-parisons. Rather the general economy is what I am attempting to convey.
....What is causing this obviously thriving forested country to feel so drastically the effects of their inflation and high taxation? The blame can only lay at the door of their desire to ensure a better life for all citizens by their heavy emphasis on socialized prog-rams. Remembering the cruelties this country suffered in its long war-time experiences, it was only natural that they wanted a better way of life for their citizens in peacetime. But the cost of socialism has been high. Top the point that when the world recession of forest products and the higher cost of energy came upon us all in 1973, the Finlanders were caught with high socialized programs the country could simply not afford. Tax after tax has been levied and business and the people are stifled by taxation. Our problems over here in this regard are serious, but believe me not nearly as serious as Finland’s
....We should take warning from this. It is not a case of stopping our social programs. It is a case of not letting them be larger than we can afford. Ef-ficiency of forest utilization is impor-tant, but in the case of Finland, it is not the wherewithal to a good economy. Other factors, generally politically oriented – and quite possibly needed, can destroy that efficiency just as non-productivity can destroy it. Is there still time in this bountiful country of ours to heed the problems of others? I wonder.
....The bargaining table warfare between management and labor in this country, if continued will be the great contributor to our own self destruc-tion. Labor and management must find ways of gaining each other’s respect and trust, for only through these means can we face our problems realistically. We must rekindle a respect for men and women in public office and likewise those in politics must ease off on party warfare and insults and lead their people.
....Social programs are here to stay – and the aged, the needy and those unable to find jobs must be looked after. But we can’t spend more than we have. Naïve thinking? The alter-native is chaos.
....When a province like B.C. –– and for that matter a country like Canada – is so dependent on its forest products,


one must spend some time thinking on this topic. It is foolish to say that we, as individuals can’t do anything about it. We can, but it takes effort and it means giving up a bit of our time for others – and making our voice felt.
....Canadians are a casual people, particularly western Canadians. We take a lot for granted because we have so much. Possibly we have too much for our own good. And we are a relatively new people in this world. We lack the pride that some older nations have had to cling to down through the centuries. This does not mean to say we have to wave flags and declare allegiance. Rather it means we have to understand each other far better than we do.
....Finland has a very viable forest. Her people are industrious and their knowledge of harvesting that forest and producing products efficiently are well known. But her ability to produce is being badly hampered by reasons beyond the control of her forestry people.
....It is not enough to have great forests. It is not enough to have indus-trious people or to be able to produce efficiently. There are circumstances be-yond these things such as excessive taxation and high inflation that reach out and destroy all the good planning and all the know-how and all the years of work. We here should be looking seriously at these warning signals from our friends, who are also our com-petitors.
....It can happen here – and it will happen here if we are not careful with our economy. Our forests around us are a fabulous asset. Can we stay on a sensible economic pathway through those forests and keep our books balanced?
....Finland has a tougher road to travel than we have. Possibly they will find solutions – they are extremely resilient. It is really in our good interest that, as competitors of forest products, they stay competitors to us. Because if they don’t, we are headed for deep trouble in the forest also.
....So good luck Finlanders – from a B.C. logger. You’ve fought tough battles before – and you’re not finished yet.

But remember,
Keep out of the bight,


British Columbia Lumberman, August, 1976